Businesses can now benefit from a countrywide network of self-employed professionals or ‘virtual assistants’ thanks to Kevin Donohoe, the man behind Val.ie
What are virtual assistants?
These are experienced professionals who want to run a business from home. At present they include IT and marketing consultants, accountants, project managers, proof readers, web designers and administrators who would have at least five years’ experience.
What are your projections for the business?
The virtual assistant business took off in the US in the late Nineties and is becoming a preferred work practice here. The trend is expected to expand here in Europe over the next 10 years. This is being driven by the spread of broadband, increasing commute times and the rising cost of childcare. For businesses that need the expertise but don’t need to hire someone full-time it is an option to consider.
How do you ensure that these professionals are up to standard?
They would be senior people in their own right but we would have a system of checks and balances in place to ensure good standards. We have a screening process that includes a face-to-face interview and we ensure a minimum standard of credentials. We also conduct customer satisfaction surveys to make sure standards are met.
What kind of professionals sign up to the network?
The biggest surprise was the level of people from industries we hadn’t even considered. For example, we have a chartered accountant on our network who is looking to set up a practice and is looking for a route to market. We also have a project manager, who was made redundant after 12 years in a multinational and wants to work on a project-by-project basis.
What gave you the idea to set up a virtual assistant network?
I spent years working for US multinationals and had the flexibility to work from home so I understood the challenges and advantages of working from the home environment. We have access to the facilities in the Armagh-Monaghan Technology Corridor, including a 100Mbps broadband network as well as videoconferencing and training facilities.
By John Kennedy